STEVE BRUCE will come up against his best-ever signing and the one who got away when Newcastle look to end their Anfield hoodoo.
Toon boss Bruce will renew acquaintances with Andy Robertson — the Liverpool defender whose meteoric rise from Scotland’s Third Division to Champions League stardom he helped by taking the him from Dundee United to Hull for a bargain £2.85million in 2014.
Ex-Tigers boss Bruce also came close to landing Robertson’s £75m Reds team-mate Virgil van Dijk but missed out when City would not meet Celtic’s £10m asking price.
Bruce said: “I could have taken Van Dijk to Hull. I had dinner with Kenny Dalglish and the owner of Celtic, Dermot Desmond, in Barbados — I’m name-dropping now — and he waxed lyrical about the best players he’s had.
“He couldn’t understand why nobody had gone for Van Dijk, so we tried to get him before he went to Southampton. At Hull back then for £10m I was nowhere near getting him. I tried, but I had no chance at that price.
“We took a few lads from Egypt around that time, but we never looked at Mo Salah to be honest.”
Bruce had more luck with Robertson as he helped the fresh-faced youngster develop into one of the world’s top full-backs, thanks to the odd rollicking along the way.
He added: “My chief scout Stan Ternent said we’ve got to go for him so we did our homework, went to see him and we took him.
“It was a bit of a gamble, and I remember him arriving with his mum, holding her hand. We had a couple of injuries and I threw him in. He had an unbelievable debut and hasn’t looked back. He’s been quite remarkable and is right up there with my best signings.
“I remember once we had a day out and the experienced players played a prank on him. They got him to carry cases of beer onto the team bus, even though they knew they weren’t allowed.
“I gave him a big dressing down and he certainly didn’t make the mistake of doing it again.
“He hadn’t realised the lads were winding him up and the rest of them were all sat at the back of the bus howling with laughter.”
Newcastle have not won in front of the Kop in the Premier League in 23 attempts since 1994.
Bruce admits the last time he saw his hometown team at Anfield he cheered on Liverpool during one of the two epic 4-3 victories over the Magpies.
He added: “I was in the studio that night with Alan Shearer and it was one of those games you never forget, even though it was devastating for Newcastle’s hopes.
“I was at Manchester United at the time and to be fair the final score threw the title race our way, so my reaction was a little understandable as it was such an important result for us.
“The Liverpool fans always have plenty to say to me when I’m stood on the touchline, but to be fair it’s never crossed the line.
“There’s always been a humorous side to it and sometimes you take the abuse as a compliment.”